Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Only needing a single victory to clinch a playoff spot, the Oklahoma City Thunder could’ve rolled over when the Miami Heat jumped up 23-5 with less than eight minutes gone in the first quarter. They didn’t and they flipped the script.

Russell Westbrook had a triple-double and the Thunder outscored the Heat by 27 points in the fourth quarter as Oklahoma City beat the Heat 115-93 to secure a playoff berth for the eight time in franchise history.

Oklahoma City is one of two teams (Spurs) to make the Western Conference playoffs eight of the last 10 seasons.

The 27 points scoring differential in the fourth quarter is an OKC franchise record.

While it all appeared out of sync. Oklahoma City missing their first 10 shots, falling behind by 18 points. The Thunder seemed cool, calm and collected. They put the misses behind them, climbed back into the game and all before the end of the first quarter. The Thunder cut it to 24-21 with under a minute left in the quarter.

The game in itself was the epitome of how the Thunder’s season has gone. A horrible start, followed by nice comeback to be relevant in the game. Then, an injury happened as Alex Abrines left with concussion-like symptoms. However, a flurry down the stretch clinched the game and the playoffs.

The Thunder didn’t take their first lead of the game until Corey Brewer scored on a lay up with 10:28 left in the fourth quarter.

After that, it was over.

Oklahoma City closed the game on a 21-2 run. No, that’s not a typo. That’s what happened. Oklahoma City held the Miami Heat to only two points on 1-of-9 shooting. Miami turned it over four times and missed two three-pointers. Oklahoma City pulled down eight of the 10 available rebounds. It was really a domination by the Thunder.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” Paul George said. “This is what we wanted. We wanted to come out of this road trip 2-0 and we did that.”

With Westbrook’s dominating performance against Miami, he put himself in an elite tier. He finished with 23 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists. With 16 rebounds on Wednesday in the season finale, Westbrook will average a triple-double for the second season, which would be a first in NBA history.

Jerami Grant scored 17 points and Carmelo Anthony added 11 for Oklahoma City, which also includes a new career high in season made threes. Anthony will be playing in postseason games for the first time since 2013, after four consecutive missed seasons with the Knicks.

“Half the league gets a chance to play in the postseason,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “You don’t want to take things for granted.”

Oklahoma City closes out the season against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. Oklahoma City and the Grizzlies will tip-off at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Oklahoma. We’ll have your complete coverage at the ‘Peake.

Keys to the Game

Transition: B

Oklahoma City wasn’t perfect on the break tonight but they did enough. They limited Miami and scored 15 points themselves. That’s what you want against a decent defense like Miami. To get 15 points out, in Miami, after being down 18, it’s all a win tonight.

Efficiency is key: C

While the first quarter was rough, it was the second half that raised the grade tonight. Oklahoma City shot 52 percent in the second half from the field and almost 37 percent from three. It’s what you’d like for four quarters I’m sure with the victory, everyone will take it right now.

Take care of the ball: A

Oklahoma City only turned it over nine times in the win over the Heat. Only four of those came in the second half. This was a really good offensive game from the Thunder, despite the first quarter. Even Russell Westbrook took care of it relatively well this evening.

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Chuck Chaney

Founder & Editor-in-Chief.
Member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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